You always want to look back on your life and say that your path from point A to point B was linear. It almost never really is. Today’s guest on the Unlearn Podcast is Mark Graban, author of Lean Hospitals and Measures of Success, who started out as an engineer for General Motors. It’s been quite a journey. Today, he and Barry O’Reilly will be talking about how that kind of a shift can happen, and what he learned and unlearned along the way. Listen to Outcomes For Human Systems No Matter The Business with Mark Graban.

Clashes of Culture

You might not think that the worlds of manufacturing and healthcare have much in common, but having worked in both, Mark thinks they have plenty in common – especially when it comes to culture. People aren’t machines, but the culture of many hospitals and clinics echoes what you’ll find on the factory floor – especially in institutions that haven’t done much to modernize the way they manage and lead people. Barry points out that there are similarities in tech as well: every industry thinks it’s unique, but it’s all human systems and people working together to drive outcomes. [Listen from 5:15].



Unlearning Your Whole Career

When you’ve invested years or decades into a career, you often feel like you need to stay in it. Having made a major career transition, Mark knows that doing so allows you to bring fresh insight into an organization that may not be expecting it, and when you’re in a wholly new environment, you’re in a better position to avoid the curse of expertise. Looking back, Mark wishes he’d unlearned top-down style management earlier – the benefits of engaging people in change are so many and so valuable.  [Listen from 10:00].

Seeking and Finding Clarity

Before you start optimizing for, or worse, applying a solution, you have to be exceptionally clear on what the problem really is, and what outcome you want to achieve. Mark and Barry discuss the ways this can manifest in different kinds of organizations, and the framework for problem-solving that Mark uses to help healthcare providers make changes to their operations with input from people working at all levels. The process is one that listeners will be familiar with: unlearn, re-learn and breakthrough!  [Listen from 17:50].

The Courage to Change

It’s easy to tell when something isn’t right, but it’s harder to create a moment where people are open to truly unlearning and making changes. Mark notes that looking outside of your area of expertise takes a fair amount of courage – but many people are highly skilled in their specific profession and not in the other areas of running a business or managing a team. This is often problematic because when we’re faced with things we don’t know, or feel scared and threatened – our higher-order brains shut down. There is never going to be a ‘perfect’ time for a major change, so you might as well just get started. [Listen from 25:20].

What are the Top 3 Reasons to Do This?

Management from the top-down usually doesn’t usually provide the results companies are looking for. It’s much more effective to lead as if you had no authority – by seeking input and finding out what makes people tick, and why they think the way they do. Something that Mark had to unlearn over the course of his career was that you can’t just tell people what to do, even if you’re wildly excited about helping them. Change has to be based on feedback and engagement with the people it affects. Mark has some insights on what makes people more open and receptive to change and leaves us with the thought that it’s okay to struggle with change. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad manager – it’s just something to figure out. [Listen from 32:00].

Start Your Unlearning Journey

Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results by Barry O’Reilly

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